Hello, my little freaks… and geeks! No Quickfire Challenge this week because it's time for the challenge that puts fear in the hearts and minds of chefs everywhere… Restaurant Wars! Restaurant Wars is especially interesting on Top Chef Masters (versus Top Chef) because most of the competitors are actually restaurateurs. They're not following someone's else's orders -- the buck stops with them.
So, actress and person who spells her last name with two P's instead of two L's, Busy Philipps, issues this season's Restaurant Wars challenge: to create a restaurant for Busy inspired by L.A. cuisine. It's a great time to be in L.A. for food -- just watch Eat, Drink, Love, and you'll see that! (shameless plug)
The chefs are split up into two teams based on their sous chefs' success in Battle of the Sous Chefs. So, Sue, Sang, Douglas, and David form one team; Jennifer, Bryan, Neal, and Lynn form the other. From the get-go, the two teams take very different approaches. Sue, Sang, Douglas, and David focus on modern L.A., the diversity of the different food now at an Angeleno's disposal. The other team goes for something a little more classic based not the foods Busy mentions -- Cobb salad, sundaes. But perhaps some of them took it a little too iterally. During the menu planning process, Bryan throws out a bunch of ideas to modernize his team's dishes, but he's quickly dismissed. I hadn't really noticed this dynamic before, but I'm starting to wonder if the other chefs dont trust Bryan because of his age, etc. I surely hope not. Not only has he been through this before, but he owns four of his own eateries. And let's not forget that his brother has one of the most successful restaurants in L.A. right now. Now, Bryan and Michael have very different styles, but I personally think they approach food in the same thoughtful, modern, way. They should probably listen to Bryan a little.
The differences between the two restaurants extend into pretty much every other aspect of the evening. Let's start with what ultimately becomes the winning restaurant, 72 & Sunny. I can't think of a more appropriate name to describe David Burke's front-of-house disposition. I mean, I can't get enough of this guy. What a charmer! I will say I was a little concerned about his putting a server in charge of expediting. Although this could have possibly blown up in his face, it also showed how much he trusts his employees. Another Bravo show, Below Deck, has had me thinking about being a leader vs. being a boss. David Burke is a leader. Not only did he trust a server to expedite so he could focus on his guests, but he wasn't above serving dishes himself. He would go in front, set the example, taking the first two dishes, and ask the rest of the servers to follow him. Just awesome. David did have some choice words for Sang Yoon this episode, calling his beef and broccoli dish selfish becuase it was something fairly complicated and a little out of sync with the rest of the menu. And while Sang's dish was apparently a star and he was right to look out for himself, I think David's impeccable front-of-house skills saved him a bit. David's calmness in the front hid an explosive Sang in the back. I don think any of us were surprised to see Sang's demeanor in the kitchen, especially with staff he isn't familiar with, but he was a little more frightening than usual. If a less skilled front-of-house person had been in front, the tempers in the back may have seeped into the dining room. Who knows? I think, though, ultimately, the diners were able to enjoy Sang's exceptional dish because David allowed them to. Would it have been a different story if Sang were on Jennifer's team? Maybe.